Indu Jain might not be as written about as other media barons and baronesses, but those who know her you say that she wouldn’t have it any other way. Content to operate from the background, she leaves the running of the business – the largest media house in the world, no less – to her sons, but her role of the peacemaker, the crisis-manager, the one answer to conflicts, is what holds this giant empire together. To successfully oversee a business of this might, while living a life seeped in spiritual pursuits – here she tells us why the two need not be mutually exclusive.
GJ: As chairperson of one of the most powerful media houses in the world, what do you think is the role of media in a developing country like India?
IJ: The role of the media is of great responsibility. It has the power to make or break; hence, it should be a responsible co-creator. It is the source of all information for most people. This role can be used very responsibly to spread awareness. In a country as diverse as India, the priorities of different kinds of people are different, their tastes are different and the issues they are dealing with are also different. So, the challenge is to find the right note that resonates across all these different people, and find stories and issues that matter to everybody. People are increasingly getting interested in how the country is being governed. In such a scenario, the media has a very critical role to play.
The Indian media has been through different phases in the last decade or so. In the beginning, every little development or incident was portrayed sensationally. Although, that still happens today, the audiences have matured. We, being the largest media group, take this very seriously, and take utmost care that news is given as news and not as a sensation. The portrayal of content has become more responsible, and the media is being used as a tool to cause real and positive changes in society. Media should be giving positive suggestions. They should be like a friend, philosopher and guide to the rulers of the country. Media has to be visionary.
GJ: How would you assess the Indian media as compared to the media of developed nations?
IJ: The diversity of India sets it apart from other nations. Most other developed nations have homogeneous societies: people have similar tastes, priorities, languages, etc. So, while the media penetration is nearly total in developed nations, it is split in India due to these factors. A Malayalam channel is not watched in north India, for example. Therefore, the challenge is to be so comprehensive that you appeal to everybody, at the same time being responsible. While many things in the media in developed nations have been tried, tested and set in stone, our media will continue to experiment with new things for a long time.
GJ: What qualities do you attribute to BCCL’s success?
IJ: Beautify the change according to the need of time.
GJ: What are your prime concerns as the Times Group chairperson?
IJ: Bringing balance, synergy and respect for each other’s performance.
GJ: While you are the chairperson of the Times Group, you also exude a sense of motherhood, being a matriarch. How does being a grandmother extend to the power play of the corporate boardroom?
IJ: Lending my yeast to everyone and support the group. I am called ‘Shri Maa’. To be called ‘Shri Shri Maa’ will take a little more time.
GJ: Why is there not much written about you by TOI, which is an information agent?
IJ: People attract attention, I don’t do so. I don’t desire to be written about so much. If I wanted, it would have been so.
GJ: What, according to you, is the core role of the Times Foundation; and the finite change that you wish to bring about through the work?
IJ: Times Foundation’s motto is: Your mission is our mission. Any campaign that we choose, Times Foundation strives to get it engrained in people’s minds and the government’s, so that it is scaled up and everyone benefits. We ensure the sustainability of any such campaign even after the momentum is over. We want that people start experiencing the anand or joy in giving more than receiving.
GJ: What prompted you to introduce spirituality in the shape of the daily spiritual column, The Speaking Tree, and later, the Wellness Column? How did the idea come about?
IJ: We are usually the pioneers of innovative ideas. The entire media was averse to the idea of spirituality and so, it was our ingenuity, our recognition of the need of the hour, that directed us to offer that subject to our readers, through The Speaking Tree.
GJ: How do you deal with criticism, negative comments?
IJ: Smiling at them, whether they are right or wrong, is a very good practice in life.
GJ: What is the biggest achievement, and what is yet-to-be-achieved at the Times Group?
IJ: The biggest achievement is having great torchbearers and big hearted people at all the departments of the Times Group, and a great synergy they bring together in making the organization what it is today. Of course, the strong foundation has been laid by the two brothers with their infrangible togetherness. Popularizing spirituality in each reader’s home and creating respect for all the faiths is my yet-to-be achieved milestone.
GJ: How would you rate India’s spiritual quotient today, especially that of the youth?
IJ: It is quite high and rising. Indian spirituality has a lot of depth to offer and it is finding an appeal in youngsters now. Yet, I feel, more should be done by many more spiritual masters and spiritual organizations to involve the youth. For example, the Art of Living has a youth-focused club ‘Yes Plus’. Spirituality should be simplified and modernized for the youth to be able to implement it in their everyday life. It should be live, interactive and fun-oriented.
GJ: How concerned are you about today’s youth?
IJ: The competition and struggle that today’s youth face is understandable, but they have to deal with their inner self. Through meditation and sankalpa, young people can deal with the tough times that they face. Of course, they should be well groomed in our traditional values.
GJ: You addressed the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, in 2000. Would the message in your speech remain the same after twelve years?
IJ: Definitely, there is a big change in thinking and expression now. I realize that there is no exponential growth unless the people are not awakened to their spiritual selves. They should be given more opportunities to develop this by making available to them courses and discourses which explain and teach this in detail, like what the Art of Living is doing currently. Only then will the true transformation happen. That will be the true ‘living’ of my speech, to ‘walk the talk’.
GJ: At the end of that speech at the UN, you had said, ‘Give women a chance and non-violence will effortlessly be the religion of the new millennium.’ What do you think of the women leaders we have in India, in politics and corporate sectors?
IJ: We need more of them. You can see that the ones who have made it there have made a mark in their fields. That needs to be encouraged. On a lighter note, I feel that to excel, men require thirty-three per cent reservation, rather than women.
Women have always been centres of power. That’s how they have been portrayed in our mythology as well, for e.g., Durga, Kali, Saraswati etc. This development will result in a more mature society for us. Since God has always chosen women to be of the highest stature and run the Universe, so should the government.
GJ: How do you view the position of Indian educated urban women in the country today? Are they carrying the burden of too many expectations and, sometimes, contradictory expectations to be modern and traditional, too?
IJ: If they are, I think they are doing a good job of it. In your earlier question, you mentioned that women are taking more prominent roles in businesses. It can only happen if they have the ability in the first place, which they have always had. It is simply becoming evident now. And the challenge of balancing the traditional and modern is something that we can easily take in our stride. In fact, men should allow them more freedom and exposure, and the results will be even better.
GJ: Despite the huge progressive strides, women still continue to suffer horrible atrocities in India. How do you view this dichotomy?
IJ: People commit horrible atrocities on other people, some of which happen to be against women. I prefer to avoid generalizations because they can never be accurate, only approximate. The more mature a society is, the fewer such incidents we will see. Evidently, we have a lot of ground to cover on that front. Furthermore, if women were more empowered money-wise, education-wise, and freedom-wise, they will never allow these atrocities to happen. These happen only because they are not sufficiently empowered.
GJ: There have been so many discussions on ‘spiritual hunger’. Globalization has made people consumerist and materialistic beyond belief. Do you view Indian society is degenerating?
IJ: I wouldn’t say degenerating; Rather, I’d say we are evolving. We, in India, have always believed in these trends to be cyclic. And this is just a phase in that cycle of evolution. If people are becoming spiritual, after a phase of materialism, how is that degeneration? That’s evolution.
I would say that growth index of a country should not be measured in the wealth accumulation it has done… Rather, it should have a holistic parameter of how much the people in the country have grown spiritually.
GJ: If you were asked to find a universal remedy for the world’s ills, what would it be?
IJ: Advaitmat—we are all one; you and I are one. Taking the recent scientific findings, Dr Satyendra Nath Bose’s discovery of the ‘Boson particle’ implied the same. That we all are nothing but ‘God particles’, which is all pervading.
GJ: India has always believed in the concept of divine feminine power—Shakti—yet the struggles continue for her, sometimes even for survival. Why do you think the Indian society has experienced such a dichotomy in philosophies on the feminine power?
IJ: Man forgot that he is powerful because of the feminine Shakti. By default, he started destroying all the power of a woman by curbing her growth and development in every field. Thus, he became very chaotic. Now, he is failing to handle himself. Knowledge of this whole phenomenon is missing. Shiv is the shav without the Shakti.
GJ: What is your idea of a quintessential woman?
IJ: Loving every role and loving in every role.
GJ: You have been instrumental in the establishment of the FLO, the ladies’ wing of FICCI years ago. Why did you feel the need to have a separate platform for women entrepreneurs?
IJ: I didn’t like moving around as the tail or assistant of a man, and wanted to create an identity for women in the corporate world also. I didn’t like the man’s world; for me it has to be a world of both men and women.
GJ: You also instituted the Mahatma Mahavir Award. What prompted you to institute the award and how satisfying has it been for you at the personal level, and as an Indian?
IJ: I wanted to establish the idea to have dispassionate politicians like Gandhi and the concept of Ahimsa or non-violence as a way of life. Thus, it happened in the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
GJ: What led you to conceive the idea of the Oneness Forum?
IJ: Because all the religions take you to the same goal, it very natural that there is nothing but Oneness. Each one of us has to realize and understand what appeals to us the most, and then take that path. In the end, all religions lead to the same thing: Bhakti—Gyan—Karma. The one who sees Oneness in all religions is spiritual.
GJ: The end goal for most successful people is a successful career in politics. Have you ever thought of entering the Parliament as a member?
IJ: Yes, very much. But then my daughter enlightened me that I could do far more and better from behind the scenes than in the forefront of politics, and she is right. Politicians are constrained with just one party and I am free to get the support of all the people and all the parties.
GJ: The world today is going through trying times—times of transformation. How do you see the importance of spirituality in this context and the path it can offer for the betterment of the Gaia consciousness?
IJ: From 2012 onwards, a new era has begun, as many have predicted, as a new step forward towards consciousness. Those who are in connection with their souls will be the ones to benefit the maximum. So be spiritual. In spirituality, as in any other subject, there are steps to moving forward. The moment one reaches a higher class, they would automatically start believing in it. I also believe in the theory that all particles are God particles; that God is present in every particle.
GJ: According to you, we are told to live in the ‘present’. What does it mean in terms of daily living?
IJ: It simply means not having any regrets about the past, nor worrying for the future. We spend a lot of time doing both, and it is not at all essential towards having a fulfilling life. Life is what is now. If we take care of this, past and future are taken care of on their own.
GJ: The one constant question for humankind is each one of us wanting to know ‘Who am I?’ How would you answer such a question?
IJ: If I answer the question for somebody, then I’m answering a different question. Then I’m answering ‘Who are you?’ The very nature of ‘Who am I’ means one has to find the answer within oneself. Wake up to the reality that ‘I am God’. There is only one phenomenon manifesting in various ways and that’s what I am.
GJ: Would you say that, at this stage of life, you have found spiritual certainty, a sense of self-realization?
IJ: I would like to quote here: Maine jaa kar dekha hai, rehguzar ke aage bhi, rehguzar hi rehguzar hai... rehguzar ke aage bhi… Go beyond and be a witness… It is nothing but a continuum, and a new journey between life, death and life.
GJ: Please share with us your initiation into spirituality? Who has played the most pivotal role in attracting you towards it?
IJ: I had gone through the lives of roughly ninety saints and enjoyed conceptualizing an encyclopedia of saints and sages. I was born with an inclination to spirituality. My hobby, interest and passion have been nothing but spirituality. At every stage of my life, every saint I encountered was very relevant to me. It is a constant initiation, an unending journey. I was drawn to spirituality on my own. I didn't require anybody to draw me to it; I was born a seeker. I was very inquisitive and curious to explore.
GJ: Does God exist? Or is each one of us fragments of the higher power? Does the law of Karma exist?
IJ: Yes, experience it yourself; choose the path of your liking. If you are heart-oriented, then the bhakti marg and if mind-oriented, then the gyan marg. Be brave, dissolve your ’I’ or personal ego, and experience a collective ‘I’. That’s what you are and that’s what God is.
GJ: Which are the questions you are frequently asked at spiritual meetings?
IJ: The most frequent question that I am asked at both places is ‘How do I combine my spiritual life and business life at the same time?’ I think the answer is that my office is just an extension of my spirituality and my desire to share my knowledge, happiness and love with others. Essentially, bringing synergy between the inner and the outer world is true ‘spirituality’.
GJ: Please share with us some of your favourite spiritual teachings.
IJ: All religions are valuable for somebody or the other. The methodology may be different, but the achievement is the same. You should be intelligent enough to choose your path, whichever appeals to you and will take you to the top.
GJ: How much is meditation a part of your life?
IJ: Every part of my life is a meditation. Some of it is very active while some of it is passive. Meditation is the answer for our conflict-ridden society and as you get connected to your highest self, the answer comes from there.
GJ: What is your definition of ‘happiness’?
IJ: When you feel so abundant that love and blessings pour out of you.
GJ: How would you define spirituality?
IJ: It’s a growing thing. The aim of spirituality is the growth in one’s inner and outer self. It means a balanced growth. The more your inner self grows, your outer self will also grow along with it. But people have lost this growth inside them. The time they spend on their work, business and other things, they hardly take care of their inner self.
GJ: You are an avowed follower of Lord Mahavira. It is said that you accepted Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev as your gurus. What prompted you to seek a guru?
IJ: I have moved from one guru to another and have been a devout believer of that very guru at that very moment.
GJ: A guru is known to be a dispeller of darkness. How has having a guru made a difference to your own consciousness and perception?
IJ: Darkness is ignorance. One can be ignorant of age, time, subject, personalities, etc. So each guru has played his part to give me the vision of light as per my capability to receive.
GJ: Spiritualist, chairperson of a media group, philanthropist, humanist, patron of art and literature – of all your various roles, which one has satisfied you the most, and why?
IJ: Each one these faculties are useful according to the need of the house. I believe in holistic development. Let me not be a fourteen kala-dhari or sixteen kala-dhari, but a sarv-kaladhari; bless me to achieve that.
GJ: In the Indian tradition, wealth is associated with Moh and Maya, and spirituality is associated with abstinence and renouncement. How do you so effortlessly interlace the two worlds of wealth and spirituality?
IJ: Do you think Krishna, with all his wealth, was in Moh and Maya? If everything is Brahmn, what would you renounce? It is a synergy; it’s a balance of both in my life. My knowledge, my love, my anandam is shared in my office very well.
GJ: If you could be one person from history, who would you want to be and why?
IJ: Of course, Mr Shri Shri God, nothing less than God. I love to choose the highest.
GJ: Do you believe in reincarnation? If yes, who would you like to be born as in your next life?
IJ: Reincarnation is not a belief but it is a truth. Of course, I always like to be born as a feminine force, Shakti, always ruling over Shiva.
GJ: When you wake up in the morning, what are you most grateful for?
IJ: I am grateful to my life which is so vibrant and full of creativity. And only the world of media could satisfy all this.
GJ: What according to you is the purpose of life?
IJ: To nurture the highest in me so that I can also enjoy the lowest of low and become the master of both sides of the coin.
GJ: What are the qualities in people that annoy you the most, and what are the traits that win your admiration?
IJ: At this age and having seen all that I’ve seen in life, what immediately appeals to me is simplicity and authenticity. And somewhere along the way, I’ve learnt that there is no good reason to get annoyed. Most of my thoughts are to give them exposure to spirituality.
GJ: What aspect of human behaviour makes you distressed and which are the qualities that you would like to change?
IJ: The idea that you can harm somebody and do good to yourself. Foolish as it is, a lot of people follow it and I feel for their ignorance. If it were up to me, I would like to tell everybody that nature is abundant, it has enough for everybody and they need not harm each other for petty gains.
GJ: Do you think human nature is inherently greedy and selfish and that it has to be ‘taught’ to be giving and selfless?
IJ: If greed was human nature, we would not have so many great people in history. Their lives prove that it is not. Greed to gain more knowledge, to do more philanthropy and so on should be viewed positively.
GJ: Please share a message for young readers who are inspired by your journey.
IJ: Remember: God is fun.
GJ: What advice would you like to give to the readers?
IJ: I would like to tell them that life is an incredible adventure and that they should give it their best.